“How do I get rid of…?”
It’s the most common question I get from people, clients, friends, family, people who *just* met me and learn I’m a Certified Professional Organizer®. People are coming around to the idea of letting go of things more every day, but that exit strategy part continues to be a stumper. Let’s walk through the options so YOU can have a plan to let go of your items, and also have them LEAVE your home!
We tend to think our most attractive option is to sell our stuff and get some money for it. Just deciding you want to sell it isn’t the plan, though, right? You have to figure out how and where to sell it. Let’s talk about some of the options:
1. You do the selling:
- Yard sale or garage sale – you tend to want to save up a lot of things to sell at once, so volume is your need. Plus, you kind of need to price things to move, so top dollar options aren’t what you might get for what YOU consider worth it.
- Group sales/Flea Markets – when your church or school or your town offers tables for you sell your stuff. You have to select items you think might play to a “window shopping” kind of crowd.
- Internet sale site – A for sale or auction site, such as eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, one of the websites that exist for the exchange of goods for money. This requires a certain amount of technical comfort, pricing knowledge, and the comfort of exchanging money with strangers and trusting the process. (If it’s a local sale, check out Safe Deal Zone, which lets you find a spot to exchange your goods/money that’s public and protected.)
- Facebook Yard Sale Groups – Selling groups, typically by town or location, that you can join to sell your stuff. Less risky than selling to strangers because you tend to see people’s real identity on Facebook. Selling items here can be as much about luck as anything else — what time of day did you post it so that it shows up in people’s feed, are you trying to sell something that someone else just sold the day before, etc. (Search your town on Facebook with the words “Yard Sale” after it to find one near you!)
- Selling Apps – Decluttr, GetItSold, LetGo, are just a few apps that allow you to do quick transaction sale of your stuff. Here’s a good roundup of lots of sale apps.
- Trade-In Events – you might not get cash for your stuff, but you might get a discount towards other items. Companies will over trade-ins or swaps for technology upgrades or other goods at lots of times during the year. The Babies-R-Us trade-in program is a very popular annual event for people looking to upgrade their baby equipment! (In 2018, it’s from February 16-March 18)
2. Someone sells for you:
- Consign – clothing, toys, furniture — items with HIGH demand in the marketplace, where the seller takes a commission for a limited placement for sale. It’s important your items are current, in great shape, and in the case of clothing and some furniture, seasonally appropriate. Consignment shops don’t want to keep around inventory for long.
- Auction – for higher-end items, collectibles, full collections, you may be able to work directly with an auction house for a sales strategy that targets their list of collectors. Again, this will be a commission, and likely a minimum or reserve amount required
- Estate Sale – An estate sale company can come into your home and sell high volumes of items by opening your home up to the market. They’ll typically take a commission, sometimes with a minimum required. They’re attracted to sellers that have a decent amount of high-end-but-will-definitely-sell items so that they can draw in their regulars, but also have a lot of everyday-mover items, generic and current items that people would acquire in their home for use today. You can research local options for estate sale companies with good reputations. You might also check out companies like Maxsold that focus on online estate sales.
- Sale-site or Auction-site broker – an individual or company who will take your items and sell them on eBay or Craigslist or whatever the ideal site is. They’ll take a commission, likely have a minimum value for what needs to be sold for it to be worth their effort. You might check out the eBay Valet program at a FedEx office for a local resource near you.
DONATE TO CHARITY ORGANIZATIONS
- Groups that can put it to use directly. Many people would love to know that their charitable donations are going *directly* to people who can use them. This tends to be more common when you’re donating to groups like social services or religious organizations or very local organizations that will work within a small set of towns.
- Groups that use the sale of items as a fundraiser. Whether you’re using a service like a charity that picks up your goods so that they can resell it as a fundraiser for their own charity, or you are participating in a local community event where the sale of your goods goes to raise money, sometimes, the best value that your evicted goods can bring is cash to another organization. Some common examples might be Vietnam Veterans of America or Epilepsy Foundation (both of whom pick up at your home, by the way). These organizations collect goods and resell them as fundraisers for their charitable programs.
- Anonymous Donation Spots – the bins and other “just drop here” or “just send here” locations that offer to distribute your goods among charities. “Give Back Box” from Amazon (and other partners) couldn’t be easier! Take a box, fill it with your donatable household goods and clothing, pack it up to 70lbs., print out a free shipping label, heck, even schedule a pickup. And since the final destinations are charities, you can even get a receipt for tax deduction purposes on your Amazon account.
GIVE AWAY TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW, OR DON’T KNOW
- FreeCycle – FreeCycle started as a community-giving network about 15 years ago. It proves the theory that “someone will take anything” in your community! You join the group, post an item, and people can come and take it from you. No exchange of money, just goods to those who might want or need it.
- Buy Nothing Project – Very similar to FreeCycle, these groups are mostly managed through Facebook and on a community level. These have been the next level from the Facebook Yard Sale groups and, again, can foster community through the sharing of items others might want or need, for free. (Search your town on Facebook with the words “Buy Nothing” before it to find one near you!)
- Up-for-Grabs / Interested Parties posts – You don’t need a formal group to give things away! Share your own Facebook post or email to your network to offer up those things you no longer need and are willing to share with anyone who will appreciate it!
- Curbside treasure – Another magical way to get rid of your stuff is to leave it out at your curb (if you have one) with a “FREE” sign on it. Amazingly, this can be pretty successful if you live on a well-traveled street. (and if you live near Boston, you know that Labor Day is known as Allston Christmas near Boston University when the curbs are full of the items that the college students vacating apartments are abandoning!)
RECYCLE (For free or for fee)
Whenever you’re able to make something go away that has no value to others in a responsible way, that’s still a pretty good day. Recycling can be easy or can be challenging. If you’re lucky enough to have recycling service near you, either curbside or drop off, you may not be able to appreciate that some people in the US don’t even have that. So, make the most of what you have!
- Normal household recycling available in your area. Whether you have meager collection options or a very generous one, taking every advantage to recycle your unwanted household goods is another way to get them out of your home.
- Hazardous waste collections – you may have access to these kinds of events in your town. These are controlled collection events where items that can be dangerous — flammable, poisonous, etc. — can be collected and disposed of properly.
- Special item collections — styrofoam, plastic bags, electronics, textiles, batteries, CFL bulbs, etc. One of my favorite resources to find a location for the trickier items that your curbside or drop-off recycling center may not take is the Earth911 guide. Don’t forget that Staples and Best Buy take a lot of electronics (you may have to pay to get rid of some of them) and Home Depot and Lowes will take a number of home items like light bulbs.
PERMISSION TO LANDFAIL
Nope, that’s not a typo. For many people, the idea of putting something into the trash, into the landfill, feels like a failure (“landfail”). If you’ve exhausted all the options above, sometimes, this is your only option to make things leave and you need to give yourself permission to fail.
It’s here I’ll mention Junk Removal services too, but I have to tell you, most junk removal companies today do a lot to ALSO try to prevent things going into a landfill! Most will try to work with recycling, metal scrapping, even donating goods when they can. Yes, you have to pay for the labor, but in the end, this may be the best way for some people to get the exit strategy they desperately need.
BEWARE OF THE PITFALLS:
All of these exit strategies can have some pitfalls to be mindful of:
Selling – If you think Selling is for you, determine if your items really have a market, and what the price you get for it has to be to be worth your time. And if you’re paying for someone else’s help to make it happen, make sure you realize how that eats into your potential profits.
Donating – If you’re someone who gets paralyzed at the thought of not knowing where your items will go and if they’ll really be used by someone who needs them, then donating may be a struggle for you. You may have to try trusting that the people who know best will get items to where they will DO best for someone or some organization. Another donation pitfall: If you’re doing it for the tax benefit, but you’re not going to be itemizing your taxes, you may be wasting time if you’re spending it itemizing all your items for donation! Just give them up, know they’ll do some good, and move on.
Giving away for free – sometimes, it can be hard to accept that you may have things that other people don’t want, even for free. Keep the ego at bay, and don’t take it personally. Sometimes, the things that made your heart sing sang only for you.
Recycle – sometimes, items really take some work to find an acceptable home. You have to decide how committed you are and how much effort you’re willing to put in to make sure an item gets handled in an environmentally responsible way.
Landfail – Once you make the decision that this is where it needs to go, don’t delay. Remember, keeping items you don’t want in your own home because you don’t want it to go to a landfill doesn’t solve a problem; it kicks the problem down the curb. Someday you will move. Or your family will clean out your home. Those items will eventually head to that destination if there is no other solution. In the meanwhile, don’t sublet your home to the landfill. If you’re ready to part with it and have tried your best, accept a margin of failure and evict it.
AND THE BIGGEST PITFALL OF THEM ALL:
Beware of the danger of not making a plan! Waiting for “someday” when everything will be perfect. When the right buyer will come along. When you’ll have enough for a legit yard sale. When you’ve waited for people in your life to need something rather than give it away to strangers.
So, what will you do TODAY
to put your exit strategies in place
and get those evictions started?